Sunday, September 19, 2010

Parades, Ruins, Hair cuts, oh my!

Ma sa sa’ laa ch’ool (mah sah sah la ch’ohl)
(Literally translated to “Is there happiness in your heart?)
That is a greeting that one would give in Q’eqchi (Catchchi), the language spoken by one group of Mayans in Belize. There are three main groups of Maya in Belize, the Mopan, Yucatec, and Q’eqchi. This week I found out that there is a great deal of animosity between these groups and they look down on one another for various reasons. The villages are separated by group, though the language barrier certainly helped facilitate that. Still, there is an interesting dynamic that exists between the groups I previously assumed to be one in the same. I hope to look more into these relationships, and you will certainly be filled in.

Pretty clouds over Guatemala.


Anywho, this week was a fine one. It was the first “full” week of class this year, though that turned out to be false on Friday. I spent my time this week sitting in on classes to see how teachers teach reading and to see what type of kids I will be dealing with. I’m mostly working with Infant II classes, so the 5-7year olds. They are super cute. I also started going through every single book in the library to make sure that there are cards in each book and to repair any torn books. Much of the day was spent reading children’s books, like those I remembered from my childhood (Mike Mulligan and the Steamshovel, Bluberries for Sal, Horrible Histories, Time Warp Trio, Shel Silverstein poems, and some great Dr. Seuss books). I don’t care how old you are, you should pick up Oh, The Places You’ll Go! And Maniac Magee and perhaps Neil Gaimond’s Coraline. I love being a librarian.

Oh, and this is my library!!!



And some ridiculous books that I have found. This will be a running thread throughout my stay. It shall be called: Books Silly Americans Donate (BSAD):







So, last week I asked you, the lovely person you are, to suggest a topic I haven’t covered yet. Only one response and it came from Aunt Barbara. Hi Barbara! That picture you took from atop of the MET was most excellent. Anyways, the question entailed how we get our food Items. How silly of me to forget such an interesting aspect of life down here!!! Such a fool I am.

Approximately a quarter of a mile down the road from my house is where the market is. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, busses roll into PG loaded with women intent of selling the food they bring from the villages. Some days there is a large quantity of bananas, while two days later there may be none. It is a strange and unreliable flow of goods, though we always find some good things to eat.





Now, we buy all our vegetables and fruit from the market, while we get staples like rice, eggs, oil, sugar, and rum from the small convenience stores, known here as Chineys, for the sole reason they are run by Chinese immigrants. In my experience, Belizeans are quite literal in their descriptions of people, such as how they refer to all Asians as “Chiney”. They also would call you “fat” if you are bigger, “old” if elderly, “teacher” if you are a teacher, or any sort of descriptive term. Now, these are not necessarily mean hearted, but simply a description of what you are. However, the children at school are quite intolerant of Chinese students, so I have been working hard in the library to try to stop their derogatory remarks and actually learn the name of the girl who is helping them check out a book.

So work in the library is progressing well, with my librarian assistants taking over much of the work in the afternoon, freeing me up to help students with research assignments and scolding those kids who yell/fight/play ball/steal books/cause mayhem/poop their pants/would be good candidates to bring about the end of the world. During the morning, the students have two 15 minute breaks, back to back, with the younger kids going first. I have to stand outside and make sure no kids get hit by cars. They don’t, and instead come hang out with me for the half hour I’m outside. I have started to get to know a lot of kids, and it is really nice to walk through town and have a child walk/ride by and shout “Hi sir!” On that note, it is also awesome that bikes are very prevalent in this culture. Everyone rides bikes. I saw a father pick up his son at school last week. On his bike. Belizeans have incredible balance, as they can just hop on a bike and ride the handle bars like nothing I have ever seen. There are no training wheels in this country, so I’m certain that infants are trained at an early age. It is quite funny to see a 5 year old riding an adult bike, with only one foot on a pedal at a time, shifting their weight to one side to another.

That’s a lot of talking. “Less talking, more pictures!” I hear you cry! Alright, so be it! I follow the fickle crowd just as the Roman emperors.

I made bread with Al! From scratch!


Friday was youth rally day in Belize. Tuesday is independence day (huzzah! Stick it to them British imperialists!) It is really cool that many people in this country can remember independence (1981). All the schools got together in the town square and then we had another parade through town. I lost perhaps 34 pounds that day in sweat alone.






Luckily school just ended at lunch, so Friday was a nice surprise of a half day. Another surprise was the arrival of Jon from the Belize City community, who came down for the weekend.

On Saturday, I was planning on going out to the villages to check out a Mayan ruin, Lubaantun (where the Crystal Skull was discovered). Instead of going by myself, we all went. It was an incredible place: quiet, peaceful, beautiful, yet strangely sad, for it is just a ruin of society that completely collapsed. The complex was built and occupied between 730-890 A.D. and around 20,000 people are believed to have lived in this trading complex. There are 18 plazas and three ball courts in the area.






















Oh, and I shaved my head.
WOAH!!!!



I was a little burnt from the long parade. I think I look like Shel Silverstein.


So, thanks for visiting. And thank you to those who have mailed letters and sent emails. I got a few on this week and they definitely made my day.

So, Chaawil aawib (chah kwil aakweeb), or “Take care of yourself” in Q’eqchi, and enjoy your week!

Fare thee well!



5 comments:

  1. The shaved head made my desktop background, and I tiled it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear baldy,
    I like that look and got a lot of laughs from your descriptions and recognised some of the similarities from things we noticed in asia, such as the markets and zarkos method of learning bicycle riding during kiddom under communism sounded familiar too. I am also heavy into librarianship but only the study part and unfortunately not the real life experiences you need to really use your creativity and wits. Good for you. This was my most favorite blog so far..more more more as they say in the song... oh I wonder how you can send us some audio of the sounds there...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear baldy,
    I like that look and got a lot of laughs from your descriptions and recognised some of the similarities from things we noticed in asia, such as the markets and zarkos method of learning bicycle riding during kiddom under communism sounded familiar too. I am also heavy into librarianship but only the study part and unfortunately not the real life experiences you need to really use your creativity and wits. Good for you. This was my most favorite blog so far..more more more as they say in the song... oh I wonder how you can send us some audio of the sounds there...

    ReplyDelete
  4. you do look like shel silverstein!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. we want to know all about your wise sage of a second year! we hear he is fun and cool and good looking. tell us more!!

    ReplyDelete